Georgian Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili has rejected as "without foundation" Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov's allegation that Georgian authorities provide a safe haven and support for the Chechen insurgency, Caucasus Press reported on October 25.
Kadyrov told journalists in Grozny on October 22 that in the past, weapons and money were channeled to the Chechen insurgency via Georgian territory, and "entire groups of bandits" were dispatched to Chechnya via Georgia. Today, Kadyrov continued,
Georgia remains one of very few "sources of serious moral and financial support" for the insurgents.
Georgia's Pankisi Gorge served in 2000-02 as a rear base for Chechen fighters loyal to field commander Ruslan Gelayev. It was to target that Chechen presence that the United States launched its $64 million Train and Equip program for the Georgian military in 2002. Georgian forces conducted two special operations to expel Chechen militants from Pankisi, in the fall of 2002 and early 2003, after which then Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze affirmed in February 2003 that there were no longer any Chechen fighters in Pankisi. Gelayev was killed in February 2004.
Since then, Russian officials have periodically claimed
that groups of Chechen gunmen have resurfaced in Pankisi. The U.S. State Department report on global terrorism
in 2009, released in August, dismissed such allegations as "unsubstantiated." The Russian Foreign Ministry promptly rejected
that finding as ignoring information that "Georgia is engaging in a double game with regard to the terrorist underground in the North Caucasus."
In early September, Major General Nikolai Simakov, a senior Russian Interior Ministry official based in the North Caucasus, told the Russian daily "Vremya novostei"
that "we have information that special camps have been set up on the territory of this country [Georgia] to train fighters. Persons from the Caucasus republics, usually criminals or persons who are hiding from justice in European countries, assembly there for training and are sent [to Russia] via neighboring countries."
Simakov cited a recent incident on the border between Russia and Azerbaijan in which volunteers were apprehended. He claimed they admitted to having been recruited in Austria and France by "extremist organizations" and sent to Georgia for training prior to being infiltrated into Russia.
On September 8, Caucasus Press reported the arrest during a special operation in the Pankisi Gorge of senior Georgian Defense Ministry official Soso Guzarauli on suspicion of "arms trafficking." No further details were divulged.